Back-To-School Month: "Rudy" Review

Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures

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Back-To-School Month: "Rudy" Review

Rating: PG
Length: 114 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 13, 1993
Directed by: David Anspaugh
Genre: Biography/Drama/Sport

"Rudy" is the perfect film for anyone who likes to root for the underdog. This film chronicles the journey of Daniel Ruettiger Jr., a young man with less than stellar academic and athletic ability, as he pursues his dream to play football for the University of Notre Dame's team, the Fighting Irish. Rudy is well aware of his limitations, but that doesn't stop him. He is determined to get on the field for one play during one game of the regular season despite everyone thinking his dream is foolish.

Born to working-class parents in Illinois, Rudy (Sean Astin) shares his father's passion for Notre Dame football. As a young man, he gives in to the fact that he lacks the academic acumen, physical stature, and financial means to ever become a football player for the school, and he joins his father (Ned Beatty) by taking a job at an area steel mill.

Tragedy strikes when Rudy's best friend Pete (Christopher Reed) dies in a mill explosion. Rudy realizes that life is too short not to follow his dream, and he resolves to do everything in his power to achieve his ultimate goal.

Although he fails at his first attempt to get accepted at Notre Dame, Rudy enrolls at nearby Holy Cross College with the hope that he can do well enough to eventually be able to transfer into Notre Dame. He introduces himself to the groundskeeper at Notre Dame, Fortune (Charles S. Dutton), and volunteers to work without pay, thus getting himself one step closer to the football team.

A Notre Dame graduate student and Holy Cross teaching assistant, D-Bob (Jon Favreau), begins working with Rudy to help get his grades up and soon realizes there is a real possibility Rudy has a learning disability. D-Bob was right, and Rudy is soon diagnosed with dyslexia. A teaching plan is put into place, and Rudy's grades quickly start to improve.

He eventually gets his grades to the point where he is able to transfer into Notre Dame, much to his parents' surprise. Not long after, he becomes a member of the football team's practice squad. The coach and the entire team are quite taken by Rudy's drive, determination, and spirit, and they all wind up supporting his dream of that one game play.

During the last game of his senior year, Coach Parseghian (Jason Miller) grudgingly agrees to allow Rudy to suit up for a game, and Rudy invites his parents to attend. His parents are thrilled and shocked to see their son on the bench with the rest of the team, and that would have been enough. They are even more surprised to hear a chant of "Rudy, Rudy, Rudy" echo throughout the stadium as players and attendees root for their son to be allowed into the game. The coach relents, Rudy gets his one play, and everyone who has given up on a dream learns a hard and fast lesson.

"Rudy" was directed by David Anspaugh, who also helmed another football flickā€”the 1986 hit film "Hoosiers." In both films, Anspaugh managed to focus on the individual characters instead of taking a broad swipe at the sport. He managed to perfectly capture the transformation of fortune as Rudy steps out of the shadows and becomes a part of the sport he loves so much, the part of Rudy's father who supports his son but can't always help to show his disappointment, and the sheer human spirit and will displayed by Rudy.

Although every character in the film was perfectly cast, Sean Astin did a particularly fabulous job as Rudy. Astin came into the film with an already flourishing career in television and on the big screen, having made his television debut in 1981 at just ten years old. Before being cast as Rudy, he had taken on roles in hit movies such as "The War of the Roses" and television shows such as "The Legend of Prince Valiant." After "Rudy" debuted, his acting career went into overdrive, and he took on parts in a bevy of movies, including "Courage Under Fire," "The Lord of the Rings" franchise, and "Amazing Love." His television appearances have included recurring roles in "Special Agent Oso" and "24."

"Rudy" is a heartwarming story of a young man who knows his limitations but is completely determined to get as close to his dreams as possible given the hand he was dealt. Sean Astin played the role of Rudy with every bit of heart he had, and he wound up giving a performance that was low key, truly focused, and completely self-effacing. For anyone who watches this film, both Astin and Rudy will steal a piece of your heart.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5